Age is just a number for Francke Horn who hopes to impress with the Lions
This could well be the season that Francke Horn fully comes to the fore of the South African rugby consciousness, if he manages and is afforded the opportunity to kick-on from his performance against the Bulls this past weekend.
Horn was part of a standout loose-trio composed of Vincent Tshituka, MJ Pelser, and later Hacjivah Dayimani, which kept the Pretoria-based side honest for the greater majority of the encounter in the Lions' 24-9 loss this past weekend. The former Baby Bok made an impressive six carries, gained 41 meters, beat a whopping five defenders, made one clean break, made nine tackles, and most importantly of all won three turnovers.
And although the 21-year-old was quite pleased with his outing, with the view to improve in the coming weeks, he was in equal measure peeved at the loss.
Said Horn, when speaking to Independent Media this week, of the Bulls game: "Obviously, it is not nice to lose any game and especially after being in it for 65 minutes, one point behind and then just losing a bit of concentration.
"For me personally," Horn continued, "I felt that I played really well. I made a few good carries, I made my tackles and the line-out work went well. So, for me personally, even though it didn't go according to plan for the team, I just feel I am really starting to get used to senior rugby and I am just starting to find my feet.
"Nothing is perfect, so maybe making better decisions at times and obviously the workrate is day-to-day and game-to-game related, so that is always a point in your game that you can work on to be better."
For 60-or-so minutes, the Lions kept the Bulls at bay, and were 10-9 down as the final quarter began. But the concerted pressure of the Bulls from then onwards, pinning the Lions back into their own 22, made it near impossible for the Joburgers to escape defeat. The exact reasons for the loss is a bit ambiguous, but it might just be as simple as the Bulls sticking to their gameplan and executing it better.
It is an account of the match timeline Horn can agree with.
"I don't think there was something specific that went wrong, and I can't actually put my finger on it," said Horn.
"We just couldn't get out of our 22. We played into quite a breeze in the second half, and especially when Morne Steyn (for the Bulls) came on, he just kicked us back into our 22 and forced us to exit. Being behind and chasing the game with not a lot of time left, you start to try something special or different.
"I think that was good management from them, and this is obviously a lesson that we can learn on how not to get pinned down and stick to the plan and get out of there, and play in the right areas on the field," Horn concluded.
Lions' supporters will hope that the young eighthman's words ring true, and that lessons have indeed been learnt. The Sharks, whom the Lions play next in the Rainbow Cup South Africa, are known for their kicking game, especially through the boot of Curwin Bosch, who can inflict similar damage.
The extent of the Lions' re-education will therefore be revealed as early as Saturday in Durban.
* For more of this exclusive interview, buy Wednesday's edition of The Star, in which Francke Horn discusses his blossoming partnership with loose-forward partners Vincent Tshituka and MJ Pelser.